Ezekiel 35:1-36:38, James 1:1-18, Psalms 116:1-19, Proverbs 27:23-27
Today is the 17th day of November. Welcome to the Daily Audio Bible. Welcome to a brand-new shiny, sparkly, week that we get to walk in together and discover together and experience God together through his word as we continue to take the steps forward through this year. So, we’ll read from the New Living Translation this week and today Ezekiel chapter 35 and 36.
Introduction to the book of James:
Okay. So, as we begin our new week and continue our journey through today’s reading we have come to another threshold, another letter and this letter is known as the epistle or letter of James. And, so, there’s a brand-new voice that we haven’t heard in our journey through the Scriptures so far this year. So, let’s explore what we’re about to explore. Looking at this letter throughout the history of the church we see that there’s been plenty of scrutiny over all of the centuries from a number of ways, including who is James? Which James wrote this letter? And without knowing for sure, specifically, the James, then dating the letters more difficult. But there is a solidly supported scenario and that is that James, this letter or epistle, was written by the half-brother of Jesus, who was named James and interestingly didn’t believe in Jesus during his ministry on earth. But after…after the resurrection James then became a pillar of the early church presiding over huge implication ridden, fundamental decisions, like the Jerusalem Council, like the one that opened the way for Gentiles to be accepted into the faith. And the reason many scholars find this to be maybe the most appealing of the scenarios is because, like with Hebrews whose author we don’t know with any certainty, whoever did write the epistle of James had enough influence and authority among the early believers that the letter was recognized and was read and was copied and was preserved was handed down so that we have it today. So, whereas James the brother of George may not fit that bill, whereas James the brother of Jesus certainly fits the criteria, significantly. So, as with the letter to the Hebrews, this letter from James was written from a Hebrew perspective, it was written to Hebrews. In fact, it’s addressed to the 12 tribes, the Jewish believers scattered abroad right into the Diaspora. So, that gives some clues to who the intended original recipients were and the letter may have been addressed the way that it was because of the spreading out of the gospel that came as a reaction to pressure, to persecution, to the things that they were needing to endure. Stephen’s stoning was contemporary, so this could’ve been a catalyst. If this is the case, then James was possibly writing to early believers who would once have been in his pastoral care as the leader of the church in Jerusalem. So, these would have been believers that fled in all directions to find somewhere that they could live in peace but who still felt a connection back to the Jerusalem church, their home community. After all, this was the Jerusalem church, this was the mother church so a letter coming from Jerusalem would’ve been treasured, especially if was written by the half-brother of Jesus, the leader of the church. So, if this is all true then this would actually make this letter one of the earliest of Christian writings that have been saved. And if that’s true, then the letter of James preserves inside of it some of the earliest postures of the Christian faith. And as we’ll see, there are clear postures in the letter of James. I mean more clearly than anywhere else in the New Testament, James teaches that the choices that we make, the stuff that we do, the thoughts that we have that then propel our bodies to do things, that matters. James pretty much tells us in no uncertain terms that we can say anything we want about what we believe but, in the end, how we live is actually saying the truth about what we believe and not necessarily what’s coming out of our mouth. In fact, this is…this is where we find in the Bible that faith without works is dead. So, we have a very, very early Christian writing stating these postures and this explicit connection between faith and works. And what we do hasn’t always been popular and continues to be debated about so that the definition is very clear because Paul obviously is telling us that we can’t earn anything, it’s a gift. So, in some ways it makes James and Paul look like they’re in opposition to each other. And it…I mean…it goes further than that. I mean, come all the way to the Protestant Reformation and we get to Martin Luther. And even Martin Luther, the reformer, just did not appreciate the book of James because it went against some of the things that he thought about “in faith alone”, “by grace alone”. Whereas James is kinda like, “you, okay, true. But if you’re not living your faith you don’t have any, its dead.” So, had James known that someday a thousand years in the future the church would go through some type of reformation and his letter would’ve be questioned, he probably would’ve been completely indifferent. This little letter is very likely to kick our butt this week because it is one of the most bold declarations, most confrontational, truth packed letters in the New Testament or in the Bible. But it’s not just to be confrontational, like its purpose isn’t just challenge. There’s something underneath and underneath is a plea, it’s a message that begging to be heard. It’s was begging to be heard when it was written, and it is begging to be heard now. And that is this - “live your life by faith and live your faith through what you do.” Right? It’s as poignant right now as ever maybe in some who hangs more poignant. So, let’s embrace the challenge as we enter our week and enter the letter to James. It’s not enough to know what the word of God says. The word of God has to change us, and that change becomes apparent as we live it. And in living it, we begin to understand that we must be people of action. So, we begin. James chapter 1 verses one through 18.
Father, we thank You for this new week and this new territory in the Scriptures, and as we continue our journey forward throughout this week we invite Your Holy Spirit to speak to us both from the book of Ezekiel and from the letter of James, and from the Psalms, and Proverbs. You are continually pursuing our heart and sometimes we are open to that and sometimes we are closed. And we open ourselves, we surrender ourselves to You and before You. We worship You and invite You completely into every aspect of our week - all of our thoughts, words, and deeds. Come Holy Spirit we pray. In the name of Jesus we ask. Amen.
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